I eat when I am stressed and when the temperature dropped to below zero last month and my furnace broke… my diet broke too. If you are like me you tend to overeat when the weather gets cold. I find comfort in food and a warm bowl of soup and nice salad would be the smart way to handle the cold weather. At least that is what the old school Campbell Soup commercials used to say. However, I do not stop there. When my furnace broke...it was literally freezing so I used my oven to bake up cookies which helped warm up the kitchen and me, for a while. Then I had all those cookies to freeze and keep for another day.
I asked my friend who keeps horses in her barn what she does with the animals when the temperature drops below zero and her answer was, she feeds them more hay. The extra food helps keep the horses warm. Same with me I said to myself. Although the horses can go for a run to burn off the extra calories way easier than I can. It would be funny to see horses bake cookies to warm up the barn. I am just being silly but there is something to this crazy idea of food increasing the body metabolism. Let me explain.
When a person or horse, for that matter, eats, the body generates heat as the metabolic processes of digestion is kicked into action. This is called Specific Dynamic Action and calories are burned as the mechanism of the chewing, digesting and absorbing of food takes place. As the movement of nutrients from their home location, for example blueberries in your mouth, move to the endpoints in the body, ex. the individual cells, are where the antioxidants are needed to keep the cell walls intact and the rest as poop. The nutritional transportation system requires power. Calories are burned to make this system move. How many calories are required to burn you may ask? Scientists have studied this phenomenon for over two hundred years and there are no clear answers even today. It is a very complicated system with many parts. Here are some questions to consider. Does the particular food have influence over the system? How about the outside environment in which the food is eaten, for instance, a hot day verses a cold day? What about your particular genetic background are you from a family that puts on weight or a family that is naturally thin? Many questions require lots of research to discover answers and scientists have been working on this for over one hundred years.
A recent study regarding the elderly and eating meals suggests that if you exercise after a meal the first fifteen minutes helps the body pull the glucose out of the bloodstream and thus insulin regulation is improved which may reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes. How does this effect overall digestion? Too many questions and not enough answers.
We do know that exercising 15 minutes three times a day for a total of 45 minutes a day is exactly what people should be doing at every age to stay healthy. Burning calories through activity is a much better resource than burning calories through eating food. It was discovered that Specific Dynamic Action was more effective in keeping horses and other animals warm rather than people. So back to my broken furnace and the cookies. My furnace guy eventually came to repair the furnace and the outside temperature has risen to above freezing thus I have no more excuses not to exercise. I do have those cookies waiting for me in the freezer as my reward ;).
If you are interested in a scientific literature review of this subject please refer to “Specific Dynamic Action: A Century of Investigation” by MD McCue, 2006